From Middle English swelen, from Old English swelan (“to burn, be burnt up, inflame”, st vb) (compare Old English swǣlan (“to burn”, wk vb)), from Proto-Germanic *swelaną (“to smoulder, burn slowly, create a burningly cold sensation”), from Proto-Indo-European *swel- (“to shine, warm, smoulder, burn”). Cognate with Dutch zwelen (“to smoulder”), Low German swelen (“to smoulder”), German schwelen (“to smoulder”), Icelandic svala (“to cool”). Related to swelter.
- (intransitive) To burn slowly.
- (intransitive) To melt and run down, as the tallow of a candle; waste away without feeding the flame.
- 1816, Jedadiah Cleishbotham [pseudonym; Walter Scott], chapter V, in Tales of My Landlord, […], volume II (Old Mortality), Edinburgh: […] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for William Blackwood, […]; London: John Murray, […], OCLC 230697985, page 104:
- [M]ind ye dinna let the candle sweal as ye gang alang the wainscot parlour, and haud a' the house scouring to get out the grease again.
- (transitive) To singe; scorch; dress (as a hog) with burning or singeing.
- (transitive, dialectal) To consume with fire; burn.
- (transitive, dialectal) To make disappear; cause to waste away; diminish; reduce.